Three naive high school boys

In July of ’66

Between junior and senior year

Quite dissimilar

Save for their quest

To procure female companionship

Embarking from O’Hare

To Reno

Then borrowing a car

From another friend’s dad

To drive to Yosemite

Clueless really

Somehow a collective

Understanding that

They needed to be seen

To succeed

Rented a cabin

Sitting outside

As if they would attract

Simply by being seen

Or as if pheromones

Would waft and capture

Their desired prey

Hours seemed to only add

Anxiety to their appearance

Till with sunlight fading

It seemed a young waif

Might have looked towards them

But the encroaching night

Put to rest their day’s struggle



Story Hour

Some look forward

To going out to a movie

Others can’t wait to try

A new restaurant

A soft intimate moment

Is desired by still others

But a little late in the game

I have found ‘Story Hour’

To be the most desired ticket in town

‘Story Hour’, ‘Story Hour’

Seriously? Seriously?

How can that be?

Well like most things

There is a history

Spent my early years as a parent

Working way too many hours

Trying to achieve what I already had at home

Little children and a loving wife

Nonetheless I had a few moments with them

But not enough as I now know

Of course my wife invited me

To my first ‘Story Hour’

Well, invited is a misnomer

Actually said we were going to ‘Story Hour’

With our youngest granddaughter

Two years old, blond and a pistol

So Wednesday from 9:30 to 11 was blocked off on the calendar

All other appointments were cancelled

Cell phones were turned off

And why?

Fifteen to twenty-five two to three year olds


Okay, congregated is not even close

To an accurate description of the scene

My first impression was that I needed to protect myself

Children running without fear or brakes on their little legs

At any moment, I could see myself being toppled

Landing who know where

Finding a place on the wall to maintain my balance

Was critical in this first endeavor in Story Hour protocol

Yes, yes there were some parents

But actually it seemed grandparents

Were the primary defense between chaos and storytelling

You’re right

That is scary

But actually there is a bond with a grandparent

That at the very least

Elicits a need on the child’s part

To sit on a lap, or hide behind

Or maybe even slow to a jog

But then the ‘Storyteller’ begins the familiar music

Which signals the arrival of ‘Story Time’

The running slows down, eyes turn

Some little ones even sit

To enjoy the show

A mixture of songs, reading and dancing

Finishing with an art project

And pictures, pictures,

Are part of the contract grandparents have with parents

So that while the parents are at work

They will receive a picture of their perfect one at ‘Story Hour’

I am mesmerized by the unaltered joy

The unmitigated pleasure

The pure bubbling of laughter

Emanating from the youthful audience of the

‘Story Hour’

And yes, I have our tickets for the next Wednesday




Sunny but still cool Tuesday evening

As your red pick up truck with motor running

Was parked outside Kroger

I saw your oxygen line hanging from your face

You rolled down the window

Your face started telling your story

Before you even spoke

Knew your wife had died last year

It was obvious you missed her cooking

You admitted to losing thirty pounds

Your torments then flowed from you

In and out of the hospital with unknown ailments

Twelve years ago when you had these same type ailments

Ruth had helped to nurse you back

Now you look up from a hospital bed

In a white, white room

With only regrets to recollect

A long life, seventy six years

Unfulfilled dreams

Feelings not expressed

Unable to forgive yourself

Lost, lost in the endless downward spiral

We spoke of the good you had done towards myself and others

You could acknowledge that you had tried to do right

Mostly you worried about how you had been with Ruth

Tears welled up, slowly rolling down the creases of your face

Jim, Jim I so want to hold and hug you

To tell you I love you

That you are a good man

Please forgive yourself

As truly you are the only judge there is

I wish I had opened your door to hold you

And share your tears



6 year anniversary

Happy Anniversary! Unfortunately I bring to our marriage today

No more than I bought six years ago

I am sorry about that

Someday I hope to be able to offer you more

You have been so patient

Somehow it seems we always

Have hope and each other

The children enrich our marriage

But only if we are together ourselves and

Receptive to them

This little note

Could be filled with your virtues

But you do not believe me when I tell you anyway

Let me tell you instead what the girls and I have now that

That we would not have had, if I had not met you

You have been so gentle with us

You softly answer our questions and more

Your warm body with sleepy smile

Has accepted us in forever hugs

In your arms

Our day begins securely with

Your acceptance

We have grown from your rays

We have life from your rain

We have hope from your belief

Memories, memories

That you have given us

We recognize and respond to you

Only you, only you

So much Julie to know

Sixty more years to go

I do not want to comment on our poverty

We never will have all that we might want

Ergo, why worry about what we don’t have

When we have all that we need





Naked and bare

As it were

Discovered myself

Exposed for what I was

A presumptuous bombastic know it all

All my views of how the world should be

Which I believed I shared with so many

Left shredded as I learned

That who I thought were very close friends

Believed exactly the opposite of me

Sick, sick, sad, depressed

There is no good in the world anymore

No coherent path to good and fair

How do you even relate to ‘THOSE’ people

Obviously not even morally fully developed

How do I keep living in this world of

Spiritually bankrupt souls if they even have souls

Shoved in my face that throughout my entire life

Was that I walked, ate, played and was even related

To some of these same individuals

Could it be that I had discovered the real demarcation

Between good and evil

That my eternal effort now

Must be to defeat their thought processes

I could name names

And would if by doing so

Would change their minds

Or have one iota of affect on their behavior

No, no what hurts in my souls

Is that it took 70 years

70 years

To learn this one

Universal truth

You are not me

Thank the Lord



Army Brat

Some details

A family that has held on to each other

Over many travels and travails

Dad a lawyer in the Army

Went to Tokyo for war trials after WWII

Brought my Mother Margaret and two sisters

Regina Mary 5/13/43 and Mary Eagan 10/18/45

Both born in Columbus Ohio

Then I came along 9/13/49 Tokyo

Back to the states

Another sister Margaret Mary 1951

In Columbia South Carolina

Then Thomas Joseph Jr. Ft Leavenworth KS in 1952

Michael Clark 4/23/54 in Chicago

Germany 56-59

Jane Marie born 6/18/58 in Stuttgart

Ft Knox ’59-63

Chicago 63-66 Dad retired

Friendships usually intense but fleeting

Details always few

Seemingly always saying hello and good-bye

But learning to adjust to new environments

A prerequisite for living

My saving emotional time

The Passionist Seminary

Warrenton MO ’63-’67

Friends I have to this day

Two siblings gone

Regina and Tom

Then met Julie Becker

Now the home is where the heart is



Hearing Aids

Oh my

Need to tell you

For so long

Too long

Had difficulty hearing what you said

Lip reading was becoming

A poorly learned skill of mine

Reacting to other people’s faces

My main method for understanding

What was said

No one needed to use hushed tones

Around me

As my befuddled face

Spoke of my ignorance

Grocery clerks would speak to me

Then turn to my wife

So clear their poignant observation

My children would just talk louder and slower

Grandchildren are always loud

So actually I was good there


What! My world has come back

Yes, yes

First of course the birds chirping while I walk

My own footsteps on carpet or wood

The microwave when turned on

The humming of the refrigerator

Water running

Felt like ‘Helen Keller’ bless her soul

So many times while laying close to you

Needed to get up on my elbow

To watch your lips

As you tried to talk to me

Repeating something for the hundredth time

Still not perfect but now I have no excuse

For not hearing you

There is a downside

At night they have to be taken out

The sensation is like being submerged in water


So muffled

Everything becomes so muffled

Till the next morning

Now putting the hearing aids in

Completes my morning routine





Such a quandary

God or no God

Supreme Being or not

None of us have concrete proof

Staring at us

Unable to be refuted

How about good or evil?

One person’s sin

Is another’s right

So much is belief

Religious commandments

God’s law

Ultimately humans

Say what is or was God’s law

And prescribe penalties

For non-adherence

Just humans we are

Seemingly not programmed

To be what someone else

Sees as ‘good’ or ‘evil’

Rules religious or government

Help define good or evil

So truly

Does each of us

Have to spend a lifetime

Searching our souls

To know

The ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of our existence

For what can actually

Never be known

Certainly a number don’t care

Or want to know

Or can’t act on what they do know

Some are not interested

In expanding the possibilities

In their own lives

Some have never been given the chance

Accident of birth, race, wealth, handicap

So seriously

Is ‘Who are we?’

A question most worry about

In the struggle just to survive

Does it even matters?

Well my personal observation

Is that when you hold my hand

We become ONE



Your Face

Scanning pictures

Family pictures

Over forty-five years

Some kindle blazing memories

Others are fuzzy

Needing more time

To remember

Or maybe I need

You to be my memory

For me to see that moment again

In that picture

I know I was there

The date tells me that

But you can still be there

Like a movie camera

With an old film

The images frozen in your head

While those same images

Have seeped out of my mind

Don’t know why that picture is not in my mind

But they are in yours

So I will share if that is okay

Don’t leave

I’m just now remembering

The story of our lives

Like an old Super 8

The images blur and stutter

But you are reading it to me

Page by page

Picture by picture

Don’t leave

It is such a good story

You tell it so well

With such feeling

I’m able to relive our history

Moments that have slipped away

You recreate for me

Out of fading images on a darkening screen

I’m glad they are back

Please, please

Read me me the story of our pictures together

It is our story

A very good story

A very good book

With a happy ending

As I memorize your face


Till you read to me

I love you





So it was set

A trip to the country

Just a few hours

Maybe some antique shops

A little musty but intriguing

So hard getting used to being alone again

So many times we worried

About what the kids wanted

Or needed

Now we had to discover

What we really wanted

More important what you liked and desired

Oh yes, I knew you liked chocolate frosting

But I didn’t know you liked cream cheese frosting also

I guess we didn’t get to that on our first or second date

Well now I know

So we drove to a specific spot, Bardstown

Oh my gosh, we forgot how long it has been since we went to


Then, so busy and so new

Camping and playing with the children

We, young and full of energy

Now we kept looking for restrooms and

Dairy Queens

Well fortunately we found both

Not really a Dairy Queen but a McDonalds with ice cream cones

We just wanted to look at each other

To search for that moment when we just squeezed

Just because we were together

But we were confused

We though just by getting away

That the old magic would pour

Out of the bottle again

And all the old feelings

Would flood back

But it seems we will have to piece

It back together

The old haunts

The old memories

We will do it

And we will

Come back to Bardstown